Chicago aldermen used Thursday’s police budget hearing to once again talk about all sorts of things other than the police budget.
The first questions and comments for Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy at the budget hearing came from Alderman James Balcer who commended McCarthy for the quality of police in his ward, and for opening up the police officer application process, and for getting guns off the street.
Balcer had some of his softball questions written down.
“You’ve had some good success with reductions in shooting but more work needs to be done,” Balcer said. “Can you please tell us more about the numbers of shootings and murders this year?”
McCarthy told aldermen there have been 500 fewer shootings compared to last year resulting in 623 fewer shooting victims.
One of the few budget-related questions came from Alderman Ricardo Munoz. He’s in a group of eight aldermen looking for $50 million a year to hire an extra 1000 officers, something Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to do but hasn’t done.
Munoz asked McCarthy why the police department wants to spend $70 million on overtime next year.
“At what point do we decide to increase strength to try and save on the overtime budget and basically make these permanent positions?” asked Munoz.
“It’s cheaper to pay a police officer overtime than it is to hire a fully loaded, with benefits, health benefits, and pay officer,” McCarthy replied.
McCarthy says officers aren’t being overworked. In fact he says many are eager to volunteer for the hours.